Is God Still Speaking?

God Listen

In the debate over marriage equality, one phrase keeps coming up as the core objection raised by opponents of gay marriage. That phrase is “the word of God.” Many of the people who have used that phrase have said, quite to the point: “The word of God has not changed.”

So the debate comes down, ultimately, to how we view the Bible. Is it the literal, infallible word of God? Is it “inspired” by God but written by man? Is it a collection of random theo-philosophical writings that have been carefully handpicked by the religious hierarchy?

But as people who have emerged on this side of the Enlightenment, we should also ask: is it meant to be trapped in amber, without recognizing the advance of knowledge since the time of Abraham?

After all, I doubt that today even the most devout orthodox Jew, upon discovering a bacterial lesion on his skin, would first call a rabbi instead of a doctor … and, after receiving an antibiotic, burn his clothes instead of laundering them.

We’ve learned, since the time of Moses, that pork won’t kill us if it’s properly cooked, that diseases are caused by microbes and not an imbalance of humours, that the universe is not a “vault” over a flat, circular Earth, that the world is far older than 6,000 years, that … well, let’s not get into the origin of species.

The march of scientific discovery continues; each year scientists publish more than 1.4 million peer-reviewed research papers outlining discoveries from “Pluto: not a planet” to the human genome.

In that same time “the word of God” has been conspicuously silent. After all, even though we have learned all these things, He, to some, hasn’t published anything that acknowledges them, explains them or offers guidance for them in 2,000 years.

Is God a cosmic J.D. Salinger, who published a few big hits and then disappeared into seclusion? Or has God been speaking all along … and some people just aren’t listening?

This idea was best expressed in a United Church of Christ (Congregationalist) campaign: “God is still speaking,”. (With a comma at the end: “Don’t put a period where God put a comma.”) The case the campaign was making: God continues to speak to us – not only through the clergy, but through the work of biologists, chemists, engineers, physicians, psychologists … not to mention writers, artists and musicians.

This makes perfect sense. If we are to believe in a living God, we cannot listen to Mozart or Beethoven without hearing His inspiration. We cannot look at a Titian or a Vermeer without seeing His hand. We cannot watch our children grow and learn without sensing His presence. As one of my biology professors said, the more he learned about natural selection, mutation and evolution, the more he saw that such a marvelous system must have been designed by God.

The Congregationalists would argue that God was speaking to us about political and religious tyranny in the 17th century. That God was speaking to us about slavery in the 19th century. That God has been speaking to us for centuries about the myth of racial superiority. And some of them would argue that God is speaking to us now about the nature of human behavior and sexual identity.

History shows us that we’re slow to listen to Him.

Science has demonstrated, unambiguously, that, like right- or left-handedness, autism and introversion or extroversion, sexual orientation is determined by a complex combination of genetic and environmental factors, not by individual choice. It is, then, part of a system that God himself designed. Did it take Him 2,000 years to explain it to us? Did it take us 2,000 years to understand it? Or is it – like it was with tyranny, with slavery, with women’s rights, with medicine, with racism – that we were so busily, so insistently repeating what God said 2,000 years ago that we haven’t been listening to what He’s been telling us since?

By definition, God is more enlightened than we are. I believe too many of us are not listening to what He says today.

As children, many of us were taught that babies were brought by the stork, that plants get their “food” from their roots, that Easter eggs (brought by an Easter Bunny) symbolize Christ’s rise from the tomb, that Columbus “discovered” America, that diamonds are formed from coal. This helped us begin to learn difficult (or in the case of babies, awkward) concepts in a way our limited learning allowed us to comprehend.

Would God have treated His children any differently? Would it not make sense that God explained things to the comparatively child-like minds of Bronze Age humans in terms they could understand? And would it not make sense that He would expect us, today, to understand the greater complexity behind them?

With marriage equality, I believe we’re seeing something we’ve seen many times before. People cling to God’s ancient words because they’re afraid of, don’t understand, or simply don’t like His more contemporary ones.

Too many of us avoid the ambiguity of complex truths; we’d rather believe in the Easter Bunny and the stork. Personally, I think the children of God owe Him a little more than that.

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2 thoughts on “Is God Still Speaking?

  1. As a Mormon, I believe that God does still speak to us as both individuals and as groups. I do believe in prophets and I know that Satan is real and is trying to sabotage our ability to self regulate and form deep relationships.

  2. Here’s another take on marriage equality:

    Based on legislation, editorials, talk shows and Internet traffic on the subject, you’d think same-sex issues affect most Americans. They don’t.

    The Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, a sexual orientation law and public policy think tank, estimates that 9 million Americans – about 3.8 percent of us – identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, according to a 2011 survey. The institute found that bisexuals comprise 1.8 percent of the population, 1.7 percent are gay or lesbian and 0.3 percent are transgender.

    So, only 1.7 percent of all U.S. residents call themselves gay or lesbian. That’s fewer than 1 in 50 of us.

    How did such a small minority get such a loud voice in this country? By going after the legal system. Massachusetts became the first state to legalize gay marriage in 2004. After the U.S. Supreme Court last summer struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, legal cases have escalated that would force states to recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages and to fully legalize them.

    It’s working. A CBS News-New York Times poll Feb. 19-23 shows that 56 percent of Americans say gay couples should have the legal right to marry; only 39 percent said they should not be allowed to marry. A similar Gallup Poll from last July showed that 54 percent of Americans say a same-sex marriage should be recognized by law as valid, while 43 percent oppose.

    Unlike some issues, same-sex marriage offers little room for compromise. You either approve of it, or you don’t. To make it even more strident, the debate follows religious lines: The Bible condemns homosexuality. America does not.

    So, the homosexuality/same-sex marriage debate ultimately boils down to our views on God. A Pew research study last fall revealed that 37 percent of U.S. adults say they attend a weekly religious service, nearly the same as 39 percent a decade ago. So, fewer than half of us think enough of God to worship him on a regular basis.

    And some of those who worship God regularly support the homosexual/gay marriage movement.

    Ultimately, what I think on the issue doesn’t matter. I am no one’s judge (thank God). But no matter what we say or do, we aren’t going to change God’s mind. Truth is truth, whether anyone believes it or not. For centuries, we believed the Earth was flat. We were sincere, but we were sincerely wrong.

    There’s a big picture here that we don’t want to see. Homosexuality has been tried before, since the beginning of time. It’s never worked long-term. No one has ever improved upon the nuclear family – mother and father with children. It’s old-fashioned, it’s traditional, it’s not new and improved … but it works. And its structure has always worked.

    We can’t legislate God. We can legislate morality and ethics, but not God. When we approve same-sex marriage, we are traveling a dangerous path. I didn’t set the rules. But we will have to answer for how well we listen and follow them.

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